Facing opposition from North Fork elected officials, the state parks department announced Tuesday it will withdraw a request for proposals for a Taste NY retail concession center that would have included alcohol sales at Hallock State Park Preserve in Northville.
Southold Town Supervisor Scott Russell on Tuesday received a message from state Senator Ken Lavalle’s office immediately after a town board work session that stated the State Parks commissioner assured the senator the RFP would be dropped for the new visitor’s center at the park.
Mr. LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) had reached out to the parks department to let them know Mr. Russell and Riverhead Town Supervisor Sean Walter were strongly against the idea of alcohol being sold at the center and got their word the RFP would be withdrawn, according to the senator’s communications director Greg Blower. News of the outrage over the proposed sale of alcohol at the visitor’s center was first reported Saturday by riverheadlocal.com.
“I am pleased that they have agreed to withdraw the RFP and have a meeting with us to discuss plans for the Hallock State Park educational center moving forward,” Mr. LaValle said in a statement to the News-Review Tuesday.
The parks department will work with the towns on a vision for the site moving forward, Mr. Russell was told.
The supervisors were set to hold a press conference Wednesday at the park to state their opposition to the sale of alcohol. More specifically, the request for proposals asked for a retail concession stand serving growlers, bottles of beer and wine that visitors could buy and consume at the adjoining patio area, assistant town planning director Mark Terry said at Tuesday’s work session.
“There’s a whole list of reasons why this should be re-evaluated,” he said, including parking and legal concerns.
Mr. Russell called the intent to sell alcohol at the center a violation of state law because it was not disclosed in the original RFP. He also questioned if it would comply with state environmental assessments. All agencies involved should have been notified, the supervisor said.
“Retailing on a nature preserve in a rural corridor is a terrible idea,” Mr. Russell said. “Adding alcohol to the equation? It’s preposterous.”
Wednesday’s press conference has since been canceled, according to a joint press release from the towns.
“It seems to me that when the residents of eastern Long Island and officials from the State of New York advocated to purchase this property to develop a park, they saw it as an opportunity to promote outdoor recreational activities for people of all ages to enjoy,” Riverhead Supervisor Sean Walter said in the release. “How we landed here isn’t clear, but I am grateful that our concerns did not fall upon deaf ears.”
Both supervisors thanked Mr. LaValle for urging the state to reconsider the proposal.
“As it is a state park it should still include a local vision,” Mr. Russell said. “I look forward to our meeting where we can shape the proposal to capture that vision.”